posted on:August 15, 2008

Purist or a Freak

Have you ever took on a half finished project and realized that you disagree with the way it has been handled so far? Are you bothered with the way someone else approach css coding (or coding in general) or are you able to overlook the flaws and differences, and do your task peacefully?

How do you approach coding?

During a professional career, each one of us develop a certain coding style and have some coding preferences. We use and reuse certain coding patterns that in time can become our trademark. The process of finding the perfect approach to coding takes years. During those years you filter out all the bad habits you have, and embrace new good ones. Actually, you are perfecting your style constantly but, at some point, you think “your way” is so perfect that you don’t want to change (or add) anything.

I can speak for myself and say that my “coding style” has become somewhat of a “coding obsession”. When I am asked to tweak a css property here and there on a site that I didn’t develop, I find myself editing and organizing entire style sheet to my preferences. I am like those housewives that first have to clean up the entire kitchen before making a cup of coffee. Don’t have to tell you how much more time I spend that way. I usually do this things to improve the code and do my client a favor, but I sometimes rewrite it just because it’s not formatted the way I like it! I mean, it’s a good peace of code and I am still making modifications. But, hey, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am not a tolerant and flexible person 🙂 I love people and their work! I do!

The difference between the two

So, where is that thin line between purist and a freak? Well, each one will definitely try to improve a poor code, no doubt about that. But the difference is when they take over someone else’s good code. Purist will embrace the coding patterns the developer before him used and continue in the same way. Freak? He (or she) will modify entire code to his own preferences, search for a way to optimize two lines of code into one, spend hours on moving properties, classes, functions up and down until the perfect harmony is found, will be persistent enough to go through each line and delete those darn, no-good white spaces after brackets… You may call it obsession, but to freaks there’s no other way 🙂

What about you, are you a purist or freak?

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Comments (20 Comments)

  1. Luc
    August 15, 2008

    I'm a definate freak - I can't stand looking at other people's un-indented and badly formatted code. I'd rather spend a day re-writing something from scratch, than struggling with some inherited code, whatever it may be (html/css/php).
  2. Aaron I
    August 15, 2008

    I agree with luc... unfortunately i can get pretty ocd on my css... at my job i inherit alot of design/code that i an asked to clean up... I have had to learn to be as flexible as i can without sacrificing what i feel are best practices. It isn't easy but it has been a great learning experience
  3. Sean McArthur
    August 15, 2008

    In the middle? I certainly have my own way of writing CSS, having all properties on one line, and indenting rules based on specificity. When I start editing someone else's CSS, I don't rewrite theirs. But I don't follow their same style either. I'll write everything my way and leave their code along, unless I notice when I'm briefly scrolling down something written in several rules which could have been 1. So that makes me somewhere in the middle? I won't follow their pattern, but I won't redo their work either. It's mostly just aesthetic for the developer, so there's no point in redoing work.
  4. Marko Dugonjic
    August 15, 2008

    In my early days I used to rewrite the CSS file inside-out, but nowadays, I simply overwrite the messy code with more specific selectors at the end of the file.
  5. Andrei Gonzales
    August 16, 2008

    I've taken on a large project which involved, believe it or not, 12 long css documents. They were css upon css upon css, brought about by ever-changing css coders, each one with a different style from the last. That's when I realized that a project can be completed far more efficiently when it's led by ONE freak, who is followed by as many purists as needed.
  6. Mintao
    August 16, 2008

    a Freak.... Definately
  7. Webdesign Drenthe
    August 17, 2008

    I sometimes hate myself cause I didn't make any comments while coding... Takes a lot of expensive time figuring out your own scripts...
  8. Wardell
    August 17, 2008

    I walk the line
  9. olaf
    August 17, 2008

    well, i consider myself somewhere on the golden middle path, but tend to be more freak to be honest. i am constantly developing my own way to structure and write css and can be very "pro-active" in telling other coders how its supposed to be better :)
  10. draganbabic
    August 18, 2008

    I took my comment and made it into a full post about how we see it at Superawesome. Great post Alen.
  11. Murphy
    August 18, 2008

    If you have enough time to refactor someone else's code while you're making a "small fix" you're not working smart. Cleaning up (wiping the crumbs off the counter) is fine, refactoring (mopping the floors and pulling the fridge out) is not.
  12. Mike Robinson
    August 18, 2008

    I'm a purist, however I will slowly change things to my style of coding should the previous developer agree. I won't objectively rewrite an entire stylesheet unless I am tasked with doing so :)
  13. LadynRed
    August 18, 2008

    I'd say I'm a purist and somewhat of a freak. I do find myself re-working someone else's code, combining properties into shorthand notations, indenting the code, and sometimes re-organizing the css file. Some things just drive me nuts and I have to 'correct' it. I find myself doing that with really badly written code though. If the code isn't THAT bad, I may not go so far into the freak zone.
  14. myaleigh
    August 21, 2008

    I walk the line. A few months ago, I was tasked with updating a website but the code so was sloppy (table layouts and inline styles) that I couldn't help myself and set about recoding the entire site. Other times, I go in, do what I have to do then get out.
  15. Kiel Frost
    August 27, 2008

    Depends on the time constraint, if the business needs a quick fix, I will deal with it by either editing the current code if it makes sense, or override it my own specific way. I believe it all depends on time, and if there is enough time, then yes I will fix the code, so it suits my preferences.
  16. MattZ
    August 27, 2008

    My name is Matt, and I'm a code freak. I can't stand sloppy markup, especially those that is built out by ASP or spit up by programs like Dreamweaver. I take time to indent things properly, add comments, and delete unnecessary code. I sometimes spend more time 'fixing' poor code than writing my own. I adhere to web standards. I want things to be perfect, and have stopped supporting old outdated browsers. And I like it that way.
  17. Paul Dukes
    September 7, 2008

    I swing both ways here, though I lean more towards the freak side. It all really depends on my mood. If it's a project I'm dreading, I will usually just do what I need to and get out. But then I could see one thing that would set me off and I'll spend the next hour editing someones CSS because they didn't use short hand or the file is cluttered with repeating code that is unnecessary.
  18. keir
    September 9, 2008

    Every coder thinks other coders code is a mess. Think about all that wasted time and effort spent rewriting inherited code. I think for professionals, working within time constraints, it's OK not to be a freak. I'm certainly not.
  19. Web Design Mauritius
    October 27, 2008

    I would have said definitely a Freak for me but there is the fact that I work in a web agency where we have to be efficient and I don't have time on some projects to be as freaky as I usually am. In such cases I just take on the different patterns other coders used and carry on while optimising where I can.
  20. Jeff
    October 30, 2008

    I'm definitely a freak. But I'm not happy about it. I appreciate another persons code, but I need to learn to accept it more.

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